Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
In spite of a heavy class load, Randy somehow managed to have Tuesday and Thursday afternoons free. He walked out into the open air after his Project Control class and instinctively looked at the sky. It looked gray and cold, like winter was on its way. The wind was blowing hard out of the north, and in the back of his head, he couldn't help but wonder if the surf was up somewhere.
He walked slowly across the campus, eyeing the trees. Most of the color season was over now, but a few trees still hung onto some semblance of their fall glory. It was clear that the wind cutting through his light jacket would soon be leaving them naked and bare until after he'd graduated and gone home to Spearfish Lake for good. It made the final days seem even closer. It felt good to get out of the wind when he reached the lower campus; he threaded around through the inside of the buildings rather than walk outside, reached his dorm, and went up the stairs to his room.
Not surprisingly, Crystal was there, leaning back on the couch, flipping lazily through one of her Coast Guard seamanship manuals. Since the start of classes, she'd been spending a lot of time in Matt and Randy's room, so much so that he and Matt had given her a key. Now she usually waited there for Randy to get out of class after she got back from Munising so they could do lunch together. "What kept you?" she said.
"I didn't run," he said, tossing his books on his desk. "What's up?"
"The freaking surf," she said. "Au Train was roaring when I came by an hour ago. Screw lunch, let's get it on."
"Gary?" He'd been with them on afternoon surfing expeditions before, several times now. He was becoming a fairly decent surfer, and they'd had some good, if not great waves. However, he'd missed without comment Randy and Crystal's two weekend "surfing" expeditions, once camping, once in a motel in L'Anse, when the surf wasn't up.
"Left a message on his machine," she said. "Looked down in the caf, too."
"Works for me," he said. "We can hit the drive-thru. You want to change now?"
"Already got a bikini on," she told him.
"Give me a minute," he said, yanking open the drawer where he kept the shorts from the springsuit. He stepped around the corner by the bed, so if Matt came in and left the door open there wouldn't be a clear view out to the hall, and dropped his pants. "Leave a note for Matt, will you?"
"Already did," she told him. "Jeez, it looked good."
"You wanna take the Dodge?"
"Piss, no," she said. "No point in tempting the little shit."
There was a good reason why Crystal spent a lot of time in Matt and Randy's room, even if neither of them were there. Relations with her sister hadn't been good to begin with, and they'd gotten worse as the semester had gone along. It was quieter in his room, she was among friends, and she could use Randy's computer if she needed to.
Nanci usually managed to have a crowd in her room most evenings, and several times Crystal had to get a little nasty to get things calmed down enough to be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Nanci couldn't see much reason to crash before one or two in the morning, but with having to be up at six and on the road not long after, Crystal had unilaterally decreed that it would be lights out at eleven. Perhaps only the memory of watching her sister and Randy against the two knife-wielding drunks made Nanci back down -- and then, grudgingly.
Although everyone involved had been reluctant, and for different reasons, it had been decided that Nanci wouldn't have her car on campus this semester, so her now two-year-old red Toyota Camry was parked in the Chladek driveway until Christmas. Pete had been concerned about the bad freshman parking situation, and Karin was concerned about Nanci's responsibility. Nanci had wanted her little red car, of course, and Crystal mostly wanted Nanci to keep her hands the hell off of her Olds, although she'd reluctantly agreed to let her sister use it on occasion, with permission. The situation had reached a nadir a few days before. Nanci hadn't been given a key to the Olds, but on one occasion when she'd been allowed to have the car by herself, she'd stopped and gotten a key made. Sunday evening, Nanci decided that she wanted to use the car to go out with a boyfriend, and hadn't bothered to tell Crystal.
Randy first heard about it at 6:30 the next morning, when Crystal came pounding on the door, knowing the guys were sleeping. The Olds wasn't where she thought she'd left it, and she knew damn well that Nanci had been out with it. Now, she couldn't find it and she had to get to Munising for her student teaching. Randy gave her the keys to the Dodge, expecting there'd be blood flowing in the halls after Crystal returned.
Crystal was still seething when she walked in at noon. She'd driven around the campus and found the Olds parked toward the back of the freshman parking lot. She cut a class that afternoon and drove out to K-Mart, where she bought an antitheft device that fitted over the steering wheel. Then, she found Nanci, gave her the mother of all ass chewings, and informed her that she wouldn't be using the car again. Period.
That evening, Crystal had been working on a paper in Matt and Randy's room when the phone rang. It turned out to be Pete, upset because Nanci had called home in tears, saying that Crystal wouldn't let her use the car. Crystal quietly and calmly informed him that Nanci had been out till four in the morning, had taken the car without permission, and not bothered to even leave Crystal a note telling her where it was. "Nanci can do without a car," she said. "I need it first thing in the morning, every morning. I almost missed student teaching, and I can't let that happen again."
Randy had been present at the phone call -- the call had come to his room, since Pete had thought Randy might know where to find Crystal -- and he'd heard Pete's voice clearly, yelling at Crystal that she was going to have to work things out with her sister.
"I should have told him about the three used rubbers in the back seat," she told Matt and Randy afterwards. "I think I would have, if it had been Mom. God, she can't even clean up after herself." Then, in a huff, she stomped out of the room, went down and told Nanci about the phone call from Pete, and told her that if she heard any more crybaby stuff, she'd tell him about the condoms. And, she said it loud enough so that plenty of people heard. Then, she informed Nanci that the next time she stepped out of line, she was calling home first, no matter what the hour.
The girls hadn't had much to say to each other in the last several days. Randy didn't think that Nanci would hacksaw the antitheft device -- Crystal had gotten the extra key back, but figured there were more -- so there was good reason why Crystal spent little time in her room, except to sleep there.
"What you want to bet that there'll be a little red Camry running around the freshman parking lot come Thanksgiving break?" Randy grinned as he pulled up his shorts.
"Fifty-fifty," Crystal said. "If it weren't for her grades, I'd say it was a for sure."
"Not good, huh?" Randy asked.
"We're talking academic probation if she doesn't bring them up by the end of the semester," Crystal said flatly, as Randy pulled up his pants. "It would help if she went to class once in a while. She's late for her eight o'clocks or misses them entirely about half the time. I did tell Mom that, and of course, I got whined at from Nanci for telling on her. Of course, Dad was on my ass about that, saying that I should get her up. Yeah, right, when I have to be gone at oh-dark-thirty."
"Would it help if I called her when I get up?" Randy asked, trying to be helpful, while he pulled his shoes back on.
"Maybe the first time," Crystal said. "After that, she'd ignore the phone, like she ignores the alarm clock. Besides, I don't want you to get involved, or you're gonna be asked to baby her next semester, too."
"I suppose," he said. It wasn't the first time he'd made an offer like that. It was hell to see Crystal having so much trouble with Nanci and not be able to do anything about it.
"Jesus, I wish I could go home with you at Thanksgiving, Randy. It's gonna be real fun down there in Glen Ellyn."
"You'd be welcome," he said.
"Yeah, but how the hell am I going to do it when I have to drive the little brat back down there? At least Jon's planning on flying in. Damn, I'd give a lot to have him for a roomie, by comparison. At least when he runs the computer till God knows what hour, he's not playing rap. I'm so tired of hearing 'bitches and ho's' that I could just about barf."
"I can hear you, Crystal," he said, standing up. "That's about it. I gotta stop by the Dodge and get the wetsuit bag."
"Not a problem, I got a spot just up from it," Crystal told him as she got up herself and followed him out. "Damn, I need this, just to get my mind off that little shit."
Out in the parking lot, Crystal unlocked the antitheft device in the Olds while Randy got his wetsuit bag out of the trunk of the Dodge. They got in the Olds and drove over to the PEIF, getting there just as Gary pulled up from the other direction. "I got your message," he said. "Good, huh?"
"Way good," she told him. "Them puppies are rockin'. You want to ride with us?"
"Yeah, sure," Gary told her as she locked the antitheft device again.
"Even here, huh?" Randy asked.
"Who knows where she might be hanging out?"
Randy frowned. "Crystal, does she have a key to the trunk?"
"I don't know," Crystal said. "Probably."
"Anything important in there?"
"Yeah, lots of outdoor gear."
"Maybe you'd better start leaving it in the trunk of the Dodge," he commented.
"You might have a point," she said, and went around and opened the trunk. "Doesn't look like she's been into it," Crystal told him. "But yeah, she might want to get back at me. We'll move the stuff when we get back. Thanks for thinking of it, Randy."
"Got a problem?" Gary asked as the three headed inside to get the surfboards.
"Yeah, my sister," Crystal admitted. "She's being a brat."
Gary shook his head. "That's Nanci, right?" he asked. "There can't be a lot of Chladeks running around this campus."
"Yeah, I wish there was at least one less," Crystal said. "I don't particularly care which one."
"I thought that might be it," Gary said. "A little wild, isn't she?"
Crystal stopped. "Gary, what have you been hearing?"
"I was over in the arena and heard a couple hockey players talking about how easy the Chladek kid was, and I didn't think they were talking about you."
"Christ, no," Crystal said, shaking her head. "You know what the hockey players say about me."
"Yeah," Gary grinned. It was part of the campus legend, after all; he'd first heard it as a freshman. "Guess they don't think the same thing about your sister."
"Doesn't surprise me," Crystal let out a long sigh, and turned back toward the boat racks. "I figured she'd go for the football players. Guess she likes those missing teeth."
"You gonna do something about it?" Gary asked.
"You tell me what I can do and I'll do it," Crystal said angrily. "I would really enjoy beating the crap out of her right now, just in hope that it would knock some sense into her head. But, it wouldn't, and I'd just get in more trouble over it. Seven weeks, damn it; seven more damn weeks and I don't really care since I'll be out of here and won't have to see it. I won't have to have people coming up to me and telling me how easy a lay she is. Seven weeks and I won't have my parents whining at me because I'm not keeping a close enough watch over her, and have her whining at me because I'm too strict. If she could just keep her fucking pants on for another seven weeks, I'll be happy." She stopped, sighed, and told Gary, "Sorry, guy. I'm not mad at you, but she's sure taking the fun out of the end of my college career."
Gary shook his head apologetically. "Sorry, Crystal, I was out of line."
"No, you weren't," Crystal said sorrowfully. "It's just that the truth hurts sometime. Fuck this, let's go surfing."
They got the surfboards off of the rack, and headed back outside, to find Nanci and some guy standing beside the Olds. Now, what? Randy thought.
"Can I use the car for a bit?" Nanci smiled sweetly. "We need to go get something."
"No," Crystal said sharply, "I told you that you couldn't use the car again, period."
"But Dad said we were supposed to share the car," she pouted.
"Then you better tell Dad that he's the one who's going to have to clean the used rubbers out of the back seat," Crystal said icily.
"Well, you guys are just going to go out messing around, and we need to go get something," the guy said.
"What?" Crystal asked, her voice alive with 440-volt sarcasm. "Get beer, or get laid?"
"Nanci said we could use the car," he protested, perhaps not getting the message.
Crystal looked down her nose at him for a moment, even though he was quite a bit bigger than she was. "Don't you play hockey?" she asked. "You remember a guy by the name of Baughman?"
"Yeah, he was a forward. Good guy, liked to party."
"Thought so," Crystal said, with infinite calmness covering up obvious temper. "You remember what happened to him?"
"Yeah, he got into a fight in the cafeteria, got his butt kicked, and got kicked out."
"Glad you remember," Crystal said sarcastically. "Do me a favor, will you? Pass the word on the hockey team that if Killer Chladek catches any hockey player fucking her sister, he's going to be wearing his balls for a necktie."
"You and what army?" he sneered.
"Look, dickhead," she said with a sneer that put his to shame. "Go ask Baughman, if you can figure out what jail he's in, and ask him if I'm not all the army I need. Just to be on the safe side, I think I'll call Coach Przyzlya and tell him what I just told you."
To give credit where credit was due, Nanci was the one that kept blood from running in the parking lot in the next few seconds; she remembered what she'd seen Crystal and Randy do to a couple guys with knives. "Come on, Kip, we better go," she said anxiously. "We can get a car somewhere else."
Perhaps the hockey player sensed that he was both surrounded and outnumbered, although he may not have realized just how badly. "Yeah, all right, honey," he said, backing down. The two vanished quickly.
"Piss, just what we needed to fuck up the afternoon," Randy said. "I thought for sure he was going to be dumb enough to take a swing at you."
"Tie down the boards," she said. "We're going to go surfing, hockey dickheads or no hockey dickheads. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Where you going?" Randy asked, a little concerned. Crystal was clearly as pissed as he'd ever seen her.
"I'm going to go have a little talk with Coach Przyzlya, right now," she said. "And I'm going to call Dad at work, just so she can't beat me to it, and have her tell him that I threatened her boyfriend of the hour. It won't do any good, but at least they can't accuse me of covering up her ass when she falls on it."
After everything was said and done, it was another hour before they got on the road, but when they got to Au Train, the surf was roaring, just like Crystal had promised. It was about as much as either Crystal or Randy really wanted to handle, and a little too much for Gary, who wound up swimming a lot, and sitting under the heater in the car a lot, too -- but they all did that; the water was getting colder, now. At least the action and the cold water were enough to cool Crystal's temper below the boiling point.
The three of them got back to NMU well after dark, and had dinner in the cafeteria, but for once, Crystal didn't spend the rest of the evening in Matt and Randy's room. "Guess I'd better go face the music," she said, resigned to yet another confrontation with her sister.
Randy didn't see Crystal again until lunchtime the next day, when she met him in his room, as usual. "I didn't hear any sirens and you're not in jail. It went off OK, I take it?" he asked when he saw her.
"Yeah, it was pretty good," Crystal grinned. "She came dragging her ass in about three in the morning, smelling of beer and all fucked out. She no more than walked in the door and I told her to call Dad. She said she'd do it in the morning, or sometime, and I told her that he said to call when she got in, and either she could call him or I would."
"At three in the morning?" Randy laughed. "I'll bet that was fun."
"Ohhhh, yes," Crystal grinned. "Dad was yelling so loud I could hear him in the phone from across the room. The upshot of it is that she has to call home by eleven each night, or I call home. Mom's going to call her at 7:30 every morning, and she'd damn well better be awake, because if she misses a class or a phone call, her pretty little red Camry goes to the auto auction."
"Ouch," Randy laughed, "I'll bet that got her attention."
"Yeah, I think it did," Crystal said, a little down. "Of course, that means that I've got to be in every night at eleven, too, so I guess we don't get to have any more little weekend trips."
"Well, piss," he shook his head.
"Maybe we can get in some afternoons, or evenings, or something," she temporized. "It's not like it's not coming to an end, anyway. If that'll keep the little bitch under control for the next seven weeks, it's a fair trade. She was all pissed off at me anyway for what I said to that Kip joker."
"That's gotten around," Randy grinned. "The legend lives on."
"Gary has been busy. I've heard about your little discussion with him from three different people, now."
"Would you believe it if I said that doesn't piss me off as much as it once would have?" she said. "Seven more weeks, Randy. She can cat around if she likes, just so I don't see it. I don't think I'm asking a hell of a lot."